Spinal cord injury pressure sores

Pressure Sores Following a Spinal Cord Injury

The spinal cord is an extremely important (and delicate) part of the human anatomy. Damage to it can cause long-lasting and challenging medical health issues including loss of motor function and paralysis.

Reduced mobility may be one of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about how the body can be affected by a spinal cord injury (SCI). But there are numerous other symptoms and implications that may arise, such as reduced blood pressure, impaired sexual function as well as issues with bowel and bladder control.

Another issue that an individual may have to deal with following a spinal cord injury is how the skin can affected. Pressure sores are a common challenge for anyone who has lost the ability to move because of an SCI.

Here we take a closer look at what causes pressure sores and how they can be managed, prevented and treated.

What are Pressure Sores?

The skin, like any other part of the body, relies on a strong blood supply to keep it healthy. Lying in one position for too long (for example, when someone is bed-bound) can result in a restricted supply of blood to certain areas of the body. Once this happens, skin tissue may begin to die and sores can develop.

With spinal cord injuries, this situation is often compounded because the nerves that serve these blood vessels may be damaged.

Causes of Pressure Sores

Causes of pressure sores

The blood supplies all sorts of nutrients to the skin and when this process if negatively affected, cells will start to die. For individuals with spinal cord injuries, this can occur for a variety of different reasons:

  • Lack of mobility may mean the blood supply is cut off and pressure sores develop.
  • Moving someone across a surface can easily cause an abrasion if care is not taken.
  • People with SCIs are more prone to injuries from burning or cuts that aren’t noticed because of lack of sensation.

Bony areas of the skin, where there isn’t much in the way of physical padding, can also be affected quicker because they are less protected.

How to Prevent Pressure Sores

There are a number of skincare tips for individuals with paralysis which can help reduce the risk of pressure sores developing.

These include:

  • Regularly making skincare checks: The key focus when it comes pressure sores and spinal cord injuries is to be vigilant. It’s a good habit to get into and will ensure that when problem areas do develop they don’t get worse and, more importantly, don’t become infected.
  • Cleanliness: Washing and maintaining high hygiene standards can be a challenge for those with a spinal cord injury but a regular routine not only keeps the skin clean but also improves circulation.
  • Moisturize: If the skin is too dry it can boost the chances of getting pressure sores. Skincare following a spinal injury should include a regular body moisturizing routine which keeps the skin supple.
  • Circulation and movement: Regularly moving to avoid one area being affected by immobility can help maintain circulation and ensure that blood gets to the skin. This can be difficult with full paralysis and care has to be taken that other damage, including from abrasions and knocks, are not caused as a result of movement.

Whilst it’s not always possible to all-together prevent pressure sores with these skincare tips, they should certainly help. That’s why it’s important for the individual to get into good routines as early as possible following their injury.

Other areas to pay attention to include maintaining a good weight and ensuring the individual follows a healthy diet and stays well hydrated.

Treatment/Management of Pressure Sores

Pressure sore locations

When pressure sores do become apparent, it’s vital to deal with them as soon as possible.

The first step is to alleviate any pressure that may be on the area of skin. Applying antiseptic cream to the affected skin and checking it regularly should help improve the situation.

There are a variety of specialist beds and cushions that are designed to help keep problems such as pressure sores down to a minimum.

In more severe cases, some minor surgical interventions may need to take place. This will include cleaning the area by cutting away dead tissue and perhaps closing the wound if it is large enough.

A Common SCI Issue

Managing a condition such as spinal cord injury has a number of challenges. One example is the potential to develop pressure sores which can be caused by lack of movement and a reduced blood circulation due to nerve damage. Regular monitoring is the best way to ensure that pressure sores do not develop. Skincare tips for individuals with paralysis also include moisturizing and maintaining good levels of hygiene.